Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thoughts abed





I have been catching up on my mail and blogging while I have been nursing bronchitis. It is sometimes hard to keep a laptop on one’s lap while coughing. And with the server dumping me off with some regularity… add writing block and it ends up being a thankless effort.

That said, I have been reading about the move by the national church to assist those in San Joachin Diocese to claim their independence from the bishop who has been inhibited for trying to take the diocese out of the Church. I then went to blog of Via Media Ft. Worth. My good friend Tom Woodard+ has done some good work in that diocese by providing members of the Diocese of Ft. Worth some correction to
+Iker’s rhetoric about the Episcopal Church (TEC).

The thing that is so poignant about Ft. Worth is that no matter what you tell some people, they won’t believe it. You can tell them that TEC is not demonic, but they have been fighting for so long, they don’t know how to stop. And as a diocese, they have been in opposition to whatever the national church says since their inception. There is no way that they can ever trust outsiders to tell them what the truth is. When John the Baptist pointed at Jesus and said “There is the Lamb of God”, obviously some of his followers said, “No, he’s not.” We can only be thankful that St. Andrew followed Jesus.

One of the most obvious things that Ft. Worthians have to learn is that the bishop is not the lord of the universe. This is hard when for years you have been told that only the bishop and HIS clergy are able to articulate what the Church is. Now, this worked in Ft. Worth before northern businesses began to relocate in the sunny south. But the move of many folks from different regions of the US has brought varying understandings of Church to the diocese of FTW. And these folks ‘have seen Parii.’ They know what it means to be a part of a Church with clergy, lay and episcopal voices speaking differently and coming to compromise respectfully.

The myth taught by Iker and his ilk is that this whole thing about democracy in the Church was an experiment that failed. Now wiser and voices from higher up should prevail. Is this not what the Archbishop of Canterbury believes? Is this not what the Primates believe? Is that what the Pope has said? Obviously we Episcopalians are wrong. All these checks and balances on the power of bishops are wrong; the Holy Spirit doesn’t happen by election!

The sad part of what is happening in the Church is that +Iker, and +Schofield and the like will be gone, but the myth they have taught has spread. All too often I hear—“We must listen to the wisdom of our bishop,” or “I know that OUR bishop must understand this better than I.” or “Whatever MY bishop says, I will obey” come as a cop-out for being competent about the events of our Church. It is a way to abrogate our duties as clergy and laity to govern ourselves. It is the same phenomenon that has been going on in our national government since the Boomers came into their own. “Let the other guy do it as long as my ox is not getting gored.”

The Diocese of Central New York is becoming like Ft. Worth in my youth. We are becoming a bit of a backwater. The Southern Tier is not so because escape from NYC still filters over the southern border. But new blood is not coming into our area. The majority of new clergy is coming from our own in-diocese training programs. This means that we do not have images of the Church by those who have seen it work in other places, in cities, in small towns, in rural areas. We cannot depend up on a sole voice to speak the needs of the people of Central NY. It must be the voices of us all speaking—often disagreeing with one another, but at least speaking, to hear the voice of the Spirit in our midst.

The Episcopal Church is not an experiment. It is the only mainline, catholic-minded church in which difference can be tolerated. May it always be so.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Writer's Cramp




I have been suffering with an annoying case of Writer’s Cramp. This is a prelude to the much more serious ailment of Writer’s Block. I have been trying to compose in my head rather than writing it down. I have tried letting the thinking aspect of writing go fallow for a few weeks thinking that perhaps something might relax and allow the Cramp to loosen. But now comes the time when I have to do the hard work of just banging out words, often a bloody task filled with bad spelling, ungrammatical green squiggles and tortured concepts until the blockage finally gets unclogged. This is hard and unrewarding work. And it is calls forth some tortured reading and critique too.

I have just joined a chat on Ecunet call Wither ELCA? It just started today and it sounds like many of the Episcopal Church (TEC) chats that I have been a part of over the past 7 years. There are those who are “against” everything that I have thought was Christian, there are those who are ready to uphold everything that I think is Christian and there are those who are ready to get up and leave and those who think that everyone who doesn’t think the way they do should leave. (Sigh!) “It sounds like déjà vu all over again!”

Part of me wants to say: “Damnit, look at what TEC has done and don’t do it that way.” Part of me wants to say, “Each denomination has to address what it is on its own.” And part of me wants to say, “Do I have to go through this AGAIN?”

Do we have to fight out the liberal/conservative ideology in the ELCA as we did in TEC? How long will it take before we self-destruct in ELCA as TEC has done it? TEC is much longer established than ELCA has been. Is there any way to address the issues without throwing the baby out with the bath water as TEC has done? I am not sure. But I do know that no matter what we do, Christ must be proclaimed and kept before the people of God in the parishes.

Does that mean that I ignore the war waging around me? Do I not take up for the LGBT community when derogatory remarks are made? No, but it does call me to demand from myself a kind of behavior that is hard to maintain—calm, centered on Christ and a refusal to respond to the anger and spite of those who would say that I am wrong, evil or perverted. This is what I learned from TEC—this is what I couldn’t do in TEC. I guess because it came from "family" in TEC that it had so much more power.

Will others learn from me? Perhaps some, but most will have to do their own experiential falling flat on their faces. I hope some will understand what they are doing is sinful, but I doubt that too. Will some go away mad? Yes, because they have put their faith in ideology rather than in Christ himself. Will the Church change? Yes, despite all the efforts to keep it from doing so and despite all the efforts to make it what it once wasn’t.

The Church will change no matter what we do. Just like we change no matter how much we would like to stay the same. We get old and crotchety, and vital mechanics in our bodies fail. So too, it is with the Church, and the new never feels the same. Deo Voluntatis!